Hamilton County, Illinois
Genealogy and History

History of First Baptist Church of McLeansboro

First Baptist Church of McLeansboro
First Baptist Church of McLeansboro

First Baptist Church of McLeansboro first came into existence February 1, 1872. It was organized by Dr A. Defoe, J. A. Braden, Mrs. E Harrawood, and J. Frye with the assistance of Calvin Allen and Rev. John Rodmon. James H. Daily, clerk, made the very first entry in the record book stating “we the presbytery found said articles of the faith to be in keeping with the scripture... do declare them a church of Christ–clothed with all the power and privileges granted by the great head of the church and to be known as the First United Baptist Church Of Christ.”

The church first met in the homes of their members, in the courthouse and the Old School Presbyterian Church. According to a homecoming address delivered by John C. Hall at the First Baptist Church, McLeansboro on October 26, 1930, There were only two church buildings in town (the Methodist and the old school Presbyterian churches). The saloon element dominated the town and did a flourishing business. A revival of religion was desperately needed because the moral and spiritual conditions in town were really bad.

The first pastor was called on April 11, 1872. This pastor was Rev. Calvin Allen. On August 2 of that same year, the church appointed a committee to procure a lot or site for a church and to act as trustees. There were five men elected by unanimous vote. They were: A. Defoe, H. Daily, William Hunter, J. Richards, and William Glover.

“A reunion revival meeting was held jointly by these Baptists and the Cumberland Presbyterians in the old school Presbyterian church while the committee was trying to decide where to build their first meeting house and what kind to build,” J. C. Hall said, “Rev. Calvin Allen, the Baptist minister, and Rev. Hogg the Cumberland Presbyterian minister, conducted the meeting. there were many conversions. opportunity was given for membership into the Baptist and Cumberland Presbyterian churches in the same house at the same time. The Baptist minister took the hands and names of those desiring membership. There was no friction. Only a fine Christian spirit prevailed throughout the meeting.”

Mr. Heard and Mr. Marshall offered building sites to the Baptists for their proposed new building. The church accepted the site offered by Mr. Marshall. A building committee was appointed and the church members chose an additional committee to visit the different churches in this county to solicit and by subscription to build a church house. Some of the churches solicited or asked to contribute financially to the construction of the church were Belle City, New Hope, Ellis Mound, Knights Prairie, Hopewell, Parker Prairie, Mt Tabor, Ten Mile, New Prospect, Dahlgren, Antioch, Union, Blooming Grove, Hickory Hill, And Middle Creek. On the fourth Sunday in October 1876 the newly constructed building of First Baptist Church was dedicated. According to the special supplement to the McLeansboro Times May 25, 1900 the building cost $2280.00.

Revival came spontaneously to the church. During a regular preaching engagement of their pastor, Bro. Calvin Allen, twelve responded to the invitation by coming forward on promise of letter and five were saved and presented themselves as candidates for baptism. The meeting continued for some days and seventeen were baptized, and twenty-three joined by letter. All this happened before the new building was constructed.

The pastor of the church was hired annually. The pastor would serve for twelve months, and a special business meeting was set aside for “calling the pastor.” Any preacher could be nominated and elected for the next twelve months term. Brother Allen served as pastor of the church during the years of: 1873, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1880, 1884, and 1888.

Worship services were held on “Saturday night before the fourth Sabbath, Sunday morning, and Sunday night. Business meeting was held on Saturday night after preaching. The first reference of the Lord's supper being held was June 15, 1873 when a “motion was made and carried that church take communion at the regular meeting and a motion was made and carried that church commune hereafter quarterly.” In May 1894 the church voted to observe the Lord's supper at 10:00 am. the second Sunday of each month.

The earliest church minutes do not refer to specific prayer meetings. John C. Hall made a statement in a homecoming address in 1930 that he couldn't recall when there was a good weekly prayer meeting in the old church building unless the weather was inclement, or there was a sickness epidemic. Whether there was a pastor full-time or quarter-time, or had no pastor the prayer meeting and Sunday school kept going. The first mention of prayer meeting was recorded in a regular business session on August 19, 1885 . At that time the church decided to have an additional prayer meeting on Sunday night when there was no preaching.

Financing the church was a problem that constantly plagued the early members. The first church was dedicated in October, 1876. At that time the trustees were instructed to borrow from the American Home Mission Society the sum of $500.00 and pledge the property of this church by mortgage or otherwise for the payment of the same. In a business meeting in 1979 the church appointed a committee to collect enough money from the members to pay the interest on the church indebtedness. In November, they had not collected the money. Two women were put on the committee and three months later the amount of interest had been collected.

From prior reports it appears that whenever the church called a pastor, a finance committee was appointed to collect subscriptions. On November 16, 1878 a motion was made and carried that "those who had subscribed for the support of the pastor are requested to pay their subscription on or before the third Saturday of each month."

On February 27, 1882, the church voted in business session that any member of the church making a pledge and failing or refusing to comply with them shall not be entitled to a letter or letters of dismissal as long as the indebtedness exists unless satisfactory reasons are given to the church for failing to do so.

In 1888, the church joined the Fairfield Baptist State Association.

On July 9, 1898 the church appointed a finance committee. The committee was to canvas the church thoroughly, get all possible to subscribe something and pay weekly every Sunday morning.

Church discipline was a common practice throughout the early history of first Baptist church. When a brother or sister in Christ was considered guilty of unchristian conduct, a specific charge would be registered in business session and a committee appointed to counsel with the party involved and bring back a report and/or the one charged at the next business session. The investigation and deliberation of a member might continue from one to six months. On several occasions the one accused of unchristian conduct would appear and answer the charges at the regular business meeting. When church members' names were removed from the roll, the reason for exclusion was written by their crossed names on the church books. Some of the reasons for exclusion were: theft, intoxication, unchristian conduct, bigamy, dancing, falsehoods, misunderstanding, immoral and unchristian conduct, deeds unbecoming a Christian, swearing, negligence. It appears that the charges were carefully considered before action was taken.

Pastors Of The Church During The Period Of 1872-1895 Were:
C. Allen, H. Hay,J. Rodman, W. Garner, L Goodman, L. Estes, W. Morris, J. Leavitt, J. Townsend, and J. Washburn. C. Allen had the longest pastorate during that period of time, which was seven years.

Dr. J. Washburn started his pastorate in 1894. On September 9, 1896, the church decided that the failure to attend the services of the church for three months without giving satisfactory reason would be sufficient reason for dropping the members from the list of membership. A circular letter was prepared and signed by the pastor and sent to all non-attending members informing them of the decision.

The church covenant was adopted on October 7, 1896. On January 3, 1897 the church voted to switch from coal-oil lamps to electric lights.

Dr. Washburn’s ministry appears to be one of the best in the history of the church. Minutes were accurately kept, departments of the church were well organized, and missions were emphasized. Dr. Washburn was an administrator as well as a pastor.

The church called E. F. Osburn after Dr. Washburn resigned. He served as pastor for almost two years. Calvin Hodge was called as pastor on November 11, 1901 and served until June 1904. Brother Hodge was pastor of the church on three separate occasions.

By March 1907 the membership of the first Baptist church began to make definite plans to build a new building. A committee on plans was appointed. Several members presented their plan to build a building that was beyond the ability of the church to build. The trustees and deacons were appointed as a building committee with the power to select plans and to begin building as soon as practical. They were to report their proceeding to the church from time to time for approval. The contract for the building of the new church was prepared and signed on October 1, 1907. The contractor was J. H. Mcghee. The cost of the new building was $8,947.00, which excluded glazing, seating and heating. Ground was broken for the erection of the new building the same year. That fall the basement was dug and the foundation lain. The cornerstone of the present church building was laid May 14,1908. All this was done while the church was without a pastor. Services were held in the courtroom until the new building was dedicated on December 20, 1908. The letter sent to the association dated October 14 1909 lists the cost of the new building as $13,219.00.

The church anticipated dedication morning. Following is an excerpt from a newspaper clipping:

“The day of dedication was delightful in every way. Rev. E. P. Brand, superintendent of Missions of Illinois State Convention, preached the sermon and took pledges for the debt. All subscriptions were to be paid in one year. Rev. Brand asked for $5,500.00 And yet before the close of the morning service about $6,200.00 in pledges had been secured. When the result was announced there was weeping and shouting. There was much real sacrifice. One man who had fought through the Mexican War and was a colonel in the war of the rebellion gave his entire pension $27.50 per month, for one year. The money came easily because the people had a mind to give.”

Early in 1909 a second great revival occurred in the church. The minutes read: “during the early part of 1909 the pastor aided by the congregation held one of the most wonderful revivals ever witnessed in this city. The meeting was wonderful in power of the spirit ... There were added to the church by baptism 124, by letter and restoration 79 giving the church a membership of near 500. After the planting comes the cultivation and fruit.”

Brother Hodge wrote a personal note to the association on October 14, 1909. In it he stated, “we had a wonderful revival which resulted in 222 additions with 17 others standing approved for baptism (150 by baptism, 48 by letter, and 24 by experience, relation, or restoration). The revival gave every department of the church an incentive to do greater things. Our Sunday school, under the management of T. W. Biggerstaff, superintendent reached an enrollment of 674. The prayer meetings, the index to spirituality is one of our greatest and best meetings. there has frequently been above 250 person in our prayer meetings and a fine spiritual atmosphere has been with us the whole year.”

The church again began to keep the membership active. A disciplines committee again brought names before the business meetings for disciplinary action. Many were excluded. Attempts were made to get members to live according to the church covenant or be dropped from the church roll.

In mid-1911 the offerings of the church began to fall. A collector was appointed to collect delinquent subscriptions. In 1912 and 1913 the church continued to experience financial difficulties. In 1913 the church failed to have four of its twelve business meetings because it lacked a quorum.

Another attempt at church discipline occurred in December, 1913 after Brother Hodge was called as pastor. Nine members were voted to be dropped from the church roll because of “unchristian conduct,” forty-two were put on the absent list of members and thirty-nine members were asked “by letter to help support the cause of this place".

A revival occurred during 1916. In it forty-one were baptized and six came by letter. In August , 1918 the church voted to have an “annual meeting” where all the departments would report for the previous year and all church officers would be elected for one year. This practice is still followed today. The first annual meeting was held September 4, 1918. It was reported that Sunday school had an average attendance of 91, total church membership was 444.

On March 2, 1921 the church voted to purchase the Charles N. Burnett property adjoining the church to build a parsonage on. The average Sunday school for that year was 125. In a note the clerk said, “the spiritual condition of the church is at low condition due mostly to the personal indifference of the membership. So far as the clerk knows there is peace among the members but no intense activity of any to build up the cause, hence the sluggish condition of the church. The financial condition is in poor shape with plenty of subscriptions unpaid to relieve all indebtedness except the parsonage dept."

Another revival was experienced by First Baptist church in 1924 with Brother John Maulding preaching. Thirty one were received for baptism and ten on promise of a letter.

Brother Bob Evans was called November 1, 1925 and began his pastorate in January 1926. The average Sunday school attendance was 191. The fourth great revival took place in November 1926.

In 1927 the Sunday school average attendance was 223. While Bro Evans was pastor the church started using the literature from the Sunday school board in Nashville, Tennessee. It was during this time that individual Sunday school envelopes for contributions were started.

There are no minutes for the years 1929 through 1935. Bro Herman R. Moore followed Bro. Evans as pastor. He baptized 35 converts on February 17,1938. The church adopted the annuity plan for its pastor while E. H. Zipprodt of Lawrenceville was pastor. This was recommended by the Southern Baptist Convention.

The basement of the church was dug in the summer of 1940. According to the Sunday Courier and Press, Evansville, Indiana on March 2,1941, “they stretched 1 ½" steel rods across from east wall to west wall with turn buckles so that they could pull the building (walls) together. These they encased in decorative wooden beams. Then they were ready to do the job that should have been done on the foundation when the church was built thirty-two years before (1908). It seems that the church was originally erected with basement under only twenty feet of north end. The rest of the foundation stood right on the ground and due to pressure from the heavy roof was sinking bit by bit down into the springtime mud.”

The basement did not start out to be a basement. The men were digging trenches “radiating from the center of the mud area to and under the walls of the church building to reinforce the church building ,” the trenches were to be filled with steel reinforced concrete to support the walls. When digging the trenches they decided it would be silly to put the dirt back when the cement was poured. As a result, they decided to make a basement under the church.

Much of the work of reinforcing the walls and foundation was contracted. Volunteers were rounded up. The men worked from 6 p. m. until 2 a. m. They went home just long enough to get enough sleep to go to their regular jobs the next morning. Charlie Patton became known as the “foreman of free labor.”

The night the basement was poured every man was on the job. Most of them working outside shoveling sand and gravel into the cement mixer. That was some night. Most worked until 7 a. m. The women ran the canteen, and were very busy that night.

Floors were refinished, new lights put in, new carpeting laid, linoleum laid, and radiators installed. The work took almost eight months. The church needed $ 5,000.00 to pay off the bills, $3,000.00 was pledged in 30 minutes.

Another religious awakening occurred at the First Baptist Church in February, 1940. Lloyd Simmons was called as pastor in December 1941. The church’s first organ was purchased in May, 1942. The church authorized the purchase of a stoker in February,1943. The Illinois Baptist was “put into the budget” for each church family on April 7, 1943.

Dr J. C. Hall gave a gift to build a Sunday school educational annex in 1944. The Sunday school average attendance was 266 by November, 1944. The enrollment was 637. The church was free from debt. There was continuous growth in both Sunday school and worship attendance during the next fifteen years.

A building committee was appointed in March, 1946. The church told the committee to find a competent person to draw plans and specifications for building. The drawings were to be a full basement and two stories above the ground. To promote harmony and quiet a feeling of uneasiness all deacons were retired to inactive status indefinitely, and this period of time was to be a minimum of one year.

In 1950 the church declared the office of deaconship vacant. At the next business meeting the church elected seven men by secret ballot to serve as deacons on a rotating basis.

On September 5, 1951 the church appointed a plans and finance committee to investigate the possibilities and make plans for beginning the erection of an educational building. On October 10, 1951 it was recommended that the church erect as quickly as possible an educational building. the church also approved the Southern Baptist Sunday school board to draw the floor plans. Ground breaking took place on Sunday morning May 11, 1952. On September 9, 1953, the church voted to set aside the action taken in July 1949 that placed all deacons on inactive status.

In January 1955 the church voted to supply Sunday school literature to be sent to Mrs. Thelma Martin Turpin to be used to organize a Sunday school for the children at the army base in Receite, Brazil. In 1956, the church voted to purchase an amplifier system, chimes, a slide projector and screen and a 16 mm sound projector, an addressograph machine and a card mimeograph machine. The church auditorium was decorated. They also approved preparing the basement for classes.

In 1958 the church voted to build a new pastorium. The church purchased the Epperson lot on East Jefferson and voted to build a parsonage . A new Hammond organ was purchased on June 7, 1961. Victor Dorris was elected choir director on August 1, 1962 and served for over ten years. The choir did many specials and cantatas under his direction

The landscape scene placed behind the Baptistery was a gift from James Tate on December 4, 1963. James’ brother, Monroe, painted the scene .

In 1964 the church voted to purchase a tape recorder so morning services could be taped and replayed during the week in the homes of the sick and elderly. The pastor’s study was enlarged and redecorated in 1964. The office and pastor’s study were also air-conditioned.

The foyer, annex and classrooms were redecorated in 1965. A gas heating system was purchased for both the church and educational building. Air conditioning was also purchased for the church.

In August 1966 the church voted to house the custodian in the old parsonage next to the church. Bob and Doris Prince donated the lot that is now used as a parking area to the church in 1967. The church started broadcasting the morning worship services over the newly constructed WMCL radio station in 1968. The church continued to do so until 2002.

The church got an extensive remodeling from December, 1971 through February,1972. During this remodeling, Bob Prince, Ronald Webb, Jerome Gholson, Dwight Miller, and Nolan Harrelson served as trustees. The work was completed in time for the centennial celebration.

First Baptist Church of McLeansboro

During the years of 1984 through 1997 the church went through some extensive remodeling. The work included repairing the plaster inn the educational building and the sanctuary, which was damaged in the 1969 earthquake. The members also paneled, wall papered, painted, rewired, added two bath rooms, and put carpeting in the basement. The old parsonage was torn down and a concrete parking lot was laid, and a new sign erected. The Baptistery was also refurbished. Little or no work was done by contract labor as the members did most of the work.

In 2000 the Carlton Activity Center was erected and dedicated. It is to be used by the community for activities.

The church is currently without a pastor, but is praying that God will send a shepherd for his flock that will revive First Baptist Church.



Year Called



Year Called

C. Allen



W. Brown


H. Hay



J. Little


C. Allen



R. Gabbert


J. Rodman



R. Brandenburg


C. Allen



W. Evans


W. Carner



H. Moore


C. Allen



E. Zipprodt


L. Goodman



L. Simmons


L. Estes



I. Miller


C. Allen



W. Shoopman


W. Morris



C. Langston


J. Leavitt



O. Rice


J. Townshend



R. Leigh


J Washburn



H. Widick


E. Osborn



R. Larner


C. Hodge



W. Ward


H. Todd



H. Cockrum


C. Hand



W. Tomberlin


C. Hodge



J. Parmley


A Carson



R Trotter


C Hodge



T. Stepansky



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